Past Remains

A view of yesterday from today

St Michael The Archangel's Church, Lyme Regis, Dorset

This is something really special. At first view from the front, the building appears to be a Victorian rebuild, but on closer inspection of the exterior many traces of it's earlier origins can be seen. However, the first big surprise is on entering the porch door. It isn't just a porch, but is in fact part of the original Saxon church, the remainder of the church built by the Normans circa 1120.

Below can be seen 12th century pillars in the porch. The window is known as the Coram Window, and is a memorial to Thomas Coram, a wealthy sea captain and merchant who established a Foundling Hospital after being horrified at seeing the destitution of orphan children in London.

The second surprise awaited through the door into the baptistry.  Although the font is fairly modern, erected in 1846, this part of the church was late Saxon with it's original 13th century arches still visible, although now bricked up. The arch between the baptistry into the present nave was the chancel arch of the Norman church. The photo below is of the view looking back down into the baptistry from the nave through the arch. 

To the left of the nave, this north-west corner (below) reminds me of a retired sea captain's study, with it's sloping roof, bookcase, nautical picture and light aspect. I almost expected to see an old fashioned brass telescope on the windowsill. The window opposite on the north wall was erected by the Geological Society of London in memory of  Mary Anning, whose grave is just outside. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I missed out on various details, such as some of the windows. However, I'm only a short bus journey away, so will certainly make another visit to fill in the gaps.

To the south side of the baptistry entrance is the staircase leading up to the Jacobean gallery, built in 1611. More photos showing the gallery, inscription and views from the top, can be seen in the photo album.

View of the present nave taken from the Norman arch entrance.

One of the things I love about this church is the light. The walls, pillars and ceiling are all painted white, and together with the light wood of the seating, create a wonderfully spacious and welcoming feel to it. The present nave was completed in 1506, consisting of an unusual upward slope from west to east towards the altar. Below can be seen the lovely roof bosses and angel corbels beneath the barrel roof of the chancel. The mural was added about 1850 and depicts the raising of the Cross.

After taking photos of the east end of the church, I turned around to view the nave towards the west and had my third big surprise...the impressive organ above the gallery.  A visitor to my website kindly contacted me with information about it, which enabled me to discover more. Built by Anton Skrabia of Slovenia, it was completed and installed in 2010. The price of £300,000 was considered well spent, as Lyme Regis is home to an organ school, which was set up due to the lack of good organists for churches. The beautiful pipe shades - the carved panels at the top of the pipes - were created by the local Lyme Regis artist and sculptor David West.

Two of the unusual and interesting features include a beautiful bas relief angel and a carved wooden back rest, both in the photo below. The angel is the only surviving feature of the original organ, placed here when it was supplanted by one transferred to Lyme in 1939 from the demolished St Mary Major church in Exeter, which itself was supplanted by the Anton Skrabia organ.

Outside again, the gravestone below shows the resting place of Mary Anning. Born and having lived all her life in Lyme, she became world known for her recovery and scientific research of fossils, some of which can be seen in the Natural History Museum in London, and was credited with finding the first specimen of Ichthyosaurus. 

Below is a photo taken from the south-east, showing the church overlooking the town.

There are so many delightful things to see and lots of amazing history, some of which I've omitted, and some which I missed during my visit. However, it's well worth checking out more on-line, and visiting yourself if you have the opportunity. There are also many more photos to be seen in the Photo Gallery album.

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